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Shame versus Guilt: Why it's important to know the difference

Updated: Jul 12

Shame and guilt are often used interchangeably, but they are different emotional experiences. Guilt is the sense of feeling remorse or regret for something we have done (i.e. making a mistake like running a stop sign), whereas shame is feeling a loss of self-worth or self-esteem due to a perceived flaw or failure. Guilt is the result of an action, while shame is related to our sense of identity.

In other words: guilt= "I made a mistake"

shame= "I am a mistake"

Carrying shame with us can have significant impacts on our mental and emotional well-being. Shame is a deeply rooted feeling that can lead to negative self-judgment, self-criticism, and self-doubt. It can also cause feelings of unworthiness, anxiety, and depression. When we carry shame with us, we may avoid situations that trigger our shame, which can lead to isolation and further perpetuation of negative beliefs about ourselves.

Therefore, it is important to recognize and process our shame in order to heal and move forward. Shame grows with isolation and secrecy, the most effective way to manage shame is to talk about it with safe and supportive people (like a therapist). By letting go of shame, we can let go of the ideas of we "should be" to then cultivate a greater sense of self-acceptance, self-awareness, and self-love.

To talk about feelings of shame in a safe and supportive space, reach out to schedule a consult with one of our therapists.

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